This is the latest in a series of nine Radar entries over the next five weeks detailing trends in the AFC East, downward tendencies each division team wants to correct for the coming season and upward strides that each team wants to continue into 2009:
The Buffalo Bills have been knocking on the door for a while but no one's answered. That's the playoff door, of course, and the Bills, despite having competitive teams for most of the new millennium, have missed the AFC postseason grid for nine consecutive seasons. That's equal to the Detroit Lions for the longest current drought in the NFL.
One of the keys to last year's third consecutive 7-9 season under head coach Dick Jauron was the age-old problem of winning, or not winning, in the division. The Bills opened the season 5-1, all against non-division foes, and after Win No. 5 over San Diego, LaDainian Tomlinson said, "They will be a team to be reckoned with late in the season."
But from there the Bills went 2-8, including 0-6 in their AFC East home-and-homes against the Jets, Patriots and Dolphins. It was the first time Buffalo went winless in the division since going 0-8 in 1976.
You could feel the angst in the words of LB Kawika Mitchell after the Bills were stymied, 13-0, by the Patriots in the season finale at Ralph Wilson Stadium for their first home shutout loss in 25 seasons.
"It's extremely frustrating," Mitchell said. "In order to get in the playoffs, you have to win in the division, and we lost every game in our division, and we wanted to beat the Patriots this year and it didn't happen. It's extremely frustrating."
And you know Jauron will again be stressing the importance of beating their AFC East brethren. The Bills' first three division games are all on the road: their season opener at New England, Game 4 at Miami and Game 6 at the Meadowlands vs. the Jets.
Here are the eight AFC East teams that have gone winless in their division games since the merger in 1970: